Paging Joe Barton: Robert Gibbs Won’t Apologize to Tony Hayward

At today’s White House briefing, Press Secretary Robert Gibbs was generously given the opportunity to apologize to outgoing BP CEO Tony Hayward for criticism the administration leveled at Hayward’s May comments about the size of the spill relative to the ocean. While Republican Joe Barton was quick to volunteer an apology to Hayward for the $20 billion fund to compensate for oil spill damages, Gibbs wasn’t in such a contrite mood. In fact, he said “Nobody owes Tony Hayward an apology.”

The premise of the question, from ABC News’ Yunji De Nies, is that maybe Hayward was correct when he observed that “The Gulf of Mexico is a very big ocean. The amount of volume of oil and dispersant we are putting into it is tiny in relation to the total water volume,” and that “the environmental impact of this disaster is likely to be very, very modest.”

It’s important to note that Hayward made this statement in mid-May, when there was no end in sight to the spill. Whether his statement turns out to be true or not, it did not bespeak the sense of urgency and seriousness demanded at the time.

As Gibbs also points out, whatever the eventual impact to the environment is likely to be the result of measures that the government had to push BP to take. Finally, it is much too early to judge the eventual impact of the spill, and of the dispersants. Even if it does turn out to be “very, very modest,” it will still be Hayward, and his company, who owe the apology.

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